Do you know the name of the book that has been translated into more languages than any other book that has ever been written? Maybe that is a foolish question, because there is only one book that can qualify as the answer to that question. There is no other book that comes near. No, not even the Harry Potter books.
This book - the Bible - is a composite, of the work of many writers - compiled over at least six centuries, and includes in its contents many kinds of literature: poetry, songs, proverbs, prehistory, history, philosophy, revelations.
Originally written in probably three main languages, (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), over the centuries efforts have been made to translate the Bible, or portions of it, into every language that is now known.
How can this be? Well, a marvelous global program has been working together for about 40 years now in order to get God's word into the ears and hearts of people all over the world. Like-minded associations: the American Bible Society, Hosanna's Faith Comes By Hearing, the Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, the United Bible Societies, and Crusade for Christ's Jesus Film Project have been working together on this project.
The American Bible Society, which started its work of translating the Bible more than 100 years ago, is actually going to celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2016, and it is their hope to be able to announce at that time that some portion of the Bible has been translated into every known language on the earth by that time. (I do not know what number of languages they are contemplating. My computer says there are 6,800 languages in the world, 2,261 of which have written systems and the others are only spoken.)
The way the project works is almost incredible. Many of the more obscure languages have no written language, so the translators first identify the language; if necessary, then, a team goes in to the area to create a written language.
Next, the Gospel of Luke is translated into that language. The Jesus film put out by Crusade for Christ is from the Gospel of Luke, so the Jesus film is then dubbed in this new language. The film is shown to the people and they are given written Scriptures of Luke, written in their language, to take home with them. The effect of hearing the Gospel in their own language is electric - Jesus speaking in their own language.
Translation work then continues in that language until the New Testament is finished, and then the entire New Testament is recorded in dramatized form.
Wow. It almost makes me wish I lived in one of those obscure villages. Imagine hearing, seeing, and reading for the first time about God - God of love - and the stories about Jesus who came to tell us and show us about God. That would be exciting.
It's so easy for us to read about God. The Bible is so available - so handy - that we're inclined to just overlook it. Almost all of us have Bibles in our homes - but we don't necessarily read them.
The Bible has been translated into English many times, ever since the first translations done by Jan Hus, William Tyndale and John Wycliffe. It seldom occurs to us to remember what happened to those first people who translated the Bible intoEnglish so that the ordinary people could read it for themselves.
There was a time when the early church fathers felt that it was dangerous for the "common" people to be able to read the Bible for themselves. It was considered so dangerous that the earliest translators were actually burned at the stake for doing it - (except for Wycliffe, who died before the authorities could catch up with him and condemn him - so that they actually dug up his bones and burned them for being so obstinate as to translate the Bible so ordinary people could read it).
Have you read in your Bible recently? Why not try the Gospel of Luke?
Bea Shepard is a certified Lay Speaker in the United Methodist Church and a member of the Douglas Community United Methodist Church.
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